SKI: The Early Bird Gets the Fresh Powder

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catedral ski

The wind, which kept us awake for most of the night, is shaking the windows so badly that we expect they will explode inwards at any moment. The rain, which has been falling steadily, would no doubt follow. But at 8:30 am, we rush out the door and run to catch the municipal bus to Cerro Cathedral, some 20km west of the city. It’s normally a full bus in the mornings, with throngs of Brazilians, Argentines and Americans making the daily trip to ski, but on this morning the weather has most people staying in bed. Thankfully, they are not blessed with insider knowledge that says if it’s raining and less than 5 degrees in the city, it’s snowing hard on the mountain.

We arrive at the deserted base area, where it is half raining and half snowing and the mountain is hidden by thick fog, so we fear that the weather will be too strong to allow the chairlifts to operate. Our fears are quickly eliminated, when we see the bull wheel turning on the six-person chair that takes people to the mid-mountain. We quickly load the chair, along with one other local skier, and begin our assent into the invisible abyss. We quickly rise out of the rain and find that the snow is tapering off. As we near the top of the lift, something amazing happens; we rise above the fog and have nothing less an empty mountain full of freshly fallen powder.

The local skier smiles as we unload. He motions for us to follow him, which we readily do. It’s Alex’s first day skiing in South America, and he is laughing aloud at how ridiculously lucky he is to arrive to these conditions. I have been here many times, but never seen conditions so perfect or the mountain so empty. To have them both on one day is special.

The local, who becomes our impromptu guide for the day, leads us on a sort of strategic powder tour of the mountain, the kind that takes you from one sweet section to the next, making sure to take into account lift openings, avalanche closures and scoring runs on all the best places before they become tracked. It’s the same system that many of us use back at our local mountains but, at home, competition and egos are too big to share it even with your closest friends, let alone a complete stranger. Argentina is so friendly sometimes!

Run after run of perfect snow, we work our way from right to left, continuing to chase our local friend through tree runs, open bowls and exhilarating chutes and couloirs. He really knows this mountain, but as we are sticking mostly to two person chairlifts, we still have not exchanged a single word. The day continues and we shift around the mountain before standing atop one final run, to the far skier’s left, called La Palmera.

He stops at the top of a steep ridge. We ski up beside him, stop to see views of breaking skies out across the majestic Lago Nahuel Huapi, and take a silent moment to enjoy it all. He speaks first, “This one is the best, enjoy!” and drops into the best run of the day, before we even get a chance to reply.
We give chase, snow funneling up and over our heads on every turn to the bottom.

As we slide past our new friend at the base area, we simply say, “Beers are on us!” and motion for him to follow. He readily agrees. Now there will be plenty of time to talk about this magic day.


Andrew Reynolds on June 26, 08

That was really a great experience and a day full of enjoyment.:)

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